When you enter the school, your eyes are greeted by the gaping classroom walls and the rubble from a collapsed boys’ dormitory.
The dust inside one of the classrooms covers learners’ shoes and bare feet. In one of the classrooms across where I’m standing, a cloud of dust covers the rooms as students go about the sweeping, minutes before the morning lessons start. Occasional coughs are heard across the school.
We are at Saad Memorial SS in Kisinga sub-county in Kasese district. It is a mixed O and A-level boarding school, founded by Saad Bin Said, the first Saudi Arabian businessman to establish a shop in Bwera, a township in Kasese, in 1914.
It finally became a formal secondary school when former President Idi Amin supported it with new structures in 1974. The school, in which several of Kasese’s elites studied, sits on about 12 hectares of land. Its dilapidated buildings were built in 1974, and the school is currently suffering the consequences of meager school grants that characterize all public schools. The classrooms and dormitories at the school do not have cemented floors.
The school’s woes came to light after the district was overwhelmed by floods last year. Saad Memorial SS saw some of its school buildings blown away. An October storm swept off a boy’s dorm and a teachers’ house. Parents then held meetings and agreed on a campaign to raise funds to give the school a new face.
Engineers told them they would need to renovate only two buildings, raze down the rest and erect new ones in their place. All the works would be completed at a cost of Shs 700m. Worried about the whopping sum, parents aised the school authorities to appeal to the government for urgent intervention.
That was October and the parents are yet to raise even half the money required. The school and district authorities are organizing a fundraising drive slated for May , at which money for the works is expected to be raised. Since then The Observer has learnt that President Museveni is expected to be the chief fundraiser at an event that will be attended by the locals, old students and local leaders, next month.
Once an academic giant in the district, Saad Memorial’s results for last year are a worrying, although the school was ranked the best in the district in 1998. This was at a time when its enrolment had reached over 900 students. That number continues to plummet. According to the 2014 O-level examination results, only one student scored a first division three managed a second grade and 17 a third grade.
Some 80 students were in division four two in division seven nine in division nine while two missed the exam. The best student out of the 31 who sat A-level exams last year scored 14 points. Only six scored ten points and above 14 scored between five and nine points. Eight scored four points and one point, while two scored no point.
The situation at Memorial is a representation of the indelible mark written by the floods and dwindling support on education institutions in the district. The 2014 results are revealing. Of the 6,276 candidates that sat their O-level examinations in Kasese, 90 missed exams.
The district, formerly an education giant, had 133 first grades, 525 second grades while 1,161 were in third grade. Some 469 passed in both division seven and nine, while the bulk of 3,898 scored division four.
At A-level, only 218 candidates scored three principal passes 309 two principals while 285 had one principal pass. Some 23 candidates failed (did not score a single principal pass) while 25 missed papers. At primary level, the situation is not any different.
The school’s acting deputy head teacher, Philip Kiriaghe Bwambale, last month told The Observer that both the local and central government had neglected the school – and not extended support to it.
Bwambale was also concerned at the understaffing levels, with the school having only three graduate teachers on government payroll. “I appeal to the relevant authorities to realise the value of the school and do the needful.” Bwambale said.
The assistant commissioner for government secondary schools, Benson Kule Bantazale, while addressing district officials at Rukoki recently, revealed that the main challenge affecting Saad Memorial SS was in the foundation bodies fighting between themselves and the Muslim community.
“There is a tendency of foundation bodies refusing school administrators from a different religious background despite how good they could be, this has also led to a breakdown of many institutions and it should not be allowed to continue,” Baritazale lamented.
He castigated the leaders in Kasese for failing to intervene in matters concerning the district’s historical school yet some of them are its old students. However, George Mayingya, the district education officer, said the authorities had tried to intervene in the issue but were unable to resolve the disagreement between the school and the Saad family.
Source : The Observer